Senate members
Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Douglas Combs administers the oath of office to 24 members of the Oklahoma State Senate on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. (William W. Savage III)

“Thank you, lord, for the gift of government.”

Those were the opening words of Frontline Church pastor Chad Kincer’s prayer in the Oklahoma Legislature’s upper chamber this afternoon as 24 Senate members took their oaths of office, 12 of them for the first time.

With outgoing Lt. Gov Todd Lamb presiding and governor-elect Kevin Stitt seated next to the desk of Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R-OKC), the chamber’s gallery had not been filled to such capacity since teachers and education advocates packed the Capitol during 2018’s regular session in April.

“Your time in the state senate will fly by,” Lamb, a former senator, told Senate members. “When it’s all over, some people will still call you senator. But don’t forget the ones who call you mom and dad and grandpa and grandma. ‘Cause those are the ones who matter.”

While new Senate members introduced their families, Stitt walked into the chamber’s lobby and spoke with a smattering of assembled politicos. He answered a few questions about the coming legislative session and his activities ahead of his own pending January inauguration.

“I’m really focused on hiring (staff) and getting the right people on board with our transition team right now. We’re doing a lot of interviews this week, and it really started the day after the election,” Stitt said. “We’re just excited to bring in diversity from all across the state, from different areas of the state, and put together a world-class team. So I think Oklahomans are going to be very, very pleased with who we are putting on our team and how we are going to move our state forward.”

Stitt said he believed the 57th Legislature should operate more smoothly than its previous iteration, speaking briefly about his interactions so far with Senate members.

“They’re looking for leadership,” Stitt said. “They’re looking for the vision and the direction and the mandate that we came into office with with some of the government reforms we are talking about and the agency-head accountability. They’re on board with us, and I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and work with them.”

Stitt discussed Tuesday’s announcement that October’s General Revenue Fund receipts had topped estimates by 2 percent.

“I feel very positive (about the economy) like we talked about in the campaign. It looks like revenues are up,” Stitt said. “The national economy is booming, so we have to take advantage of this opportunity to really grow and diversify our economy.”

Kevin Stitt meets Senate members
Governor-elect Kevin Stitt waves while being introduced in the Oklahoma State Senate on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. (William W. Savage III)

Treat on Stitt: ‘His optimism is contagious’

After Wednesday’s ceremony, Treat held a brief press conference and discussed the state’s improved budgetary outlook following last year’s historic revenue package and an uptick in the price of oil.

“Things are better, but it’s not all rainbow stew,” Treat said. “We’ve got a lot of extremely hard work in front of us. Part of it is to make sure we don’t make expectations too high: $1.2 billion is not what we are going to be able to grow the appropriations (by) and invest. We will have more money than we had in the past, though.”

Treat said he has high hopes for Stitt’s leadership as governor.

“His optimism is contagious. He’s got a command of issues once he learns it. He admits what he doesn’t know, and then he asks for people to enlighten him on it. And I can tell you, he’s one of the few people who have ever run for governor or been a CEO-type that has actually taken notes when people are talking to him.

“He’s got confidence, but he’s humble enough to sit and ask for advice. He’s somebody that you like to be around.”

Treat: ‘We expect high standards’ of conduct

With 12 new members of the Oklahoma State Senate — 10 of whom are entirely new to the Legislature — Treat said he has tried to emphasize the importance of ethical conduct and behavior.

“We expect high standards from our elected officials,” Treat said. “I expect high standards from our elected officials, and we will do everything we can to ensure public trust that they know what we are doing out here is ethical and above reproach.”

In the past three years, six members of the Oklahoma Legislature have announced their resignations amid varying levels of scandal. A seventh was sanctioned by a House committee for alleged inappropriate behavior with high school students who were serving at the Capitol. Treat said such situations are unacceptable and that he hopes new members understand that.

“It’s not just members of the public that are upset. It’s me that is upset. My reputation, the reputation of my colleagues is on the line, too,” Treat said. “It’s a very small minority group of people who have gotten in trouble, but it’s way too many. It’s unacceptable, and anything in my power and authority, we will make sure that if people get out of line — not from my agenda or what I believe — but if they run afoul of ethics or run afoul of public trust, they will be held accountable.”

Full list of Oklahoma State Senate members

Senate members of Oklahoma’s 57th Legislature are, in order of their districts 1 to 48:

All 101 members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives will be sworn into office during a ceremony scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at the State Capitol.

OMES sends freshman class ‘State Budget 101’ doc

Among other duties, Oklahoma’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services provides the executive and legislative branches with information about the state budget. Two days after Election Day, OMES distributed a series of documents to the Legislature’s freshman class, including the following overview of the state budget:

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(Correction: This story was updated at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, to note Sen. Larry Boggs’ hometown correctly.)